Tips and Tricks for Safe Summer Hiking


Julie Chickery

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Julie and her husband Sean started traveling in their RV full-time 4 years ago after they each served 20 years in the US Air Force. Having lived in more than 10 states and 4 countries, the Chickerys decided it was time to enjoy the rest of the United States. They manage Chickery’s Travels, an educational and inspirational blog and YouTube channel aimed at helping people realize their full-time travel dreams.

One of the most popular activities for RV travelers is hiking. What better way to get out and enjoy nature than to hit the trails? To ensure a safe and fun time, be sure to take precautions against some of the dangers of summer hiking.

“What kind of dangers are out there,” you ask? While they may vary depending on the specific trail, the concerns almost always include extreme heat and sudden thunderstorms, which bring the risk of flash floods and lightning.

A few precautions will go a long way towards keeping the entire family safe and happy on your next hike, like:

  • Having the proper gear
  • Paying close attention to your surroundings
  • Pacing yourself
  • Staying hydrated

A safe and happy trip–that’s the goal, right? Here are some tips and tricks for staying safe while hiking this summer.

Be Aware of the Weather

A man and his son on a hiking trail.

Before you head out, check the local weather forecast for the day including an hour-by-hour breakdown surrounding the time you’re planning to hike. Use a weather radio for the most up-to-date announcements. If you’re RVing in the mountains, this tool is essential in the event of lost cell signal.

Additionally, talk with park rangers to get a better understanding of local weather dangers from high temperatures to flash floods. Doing so can help you navigate unfavorable areas during your hike should questionable weather pop up.

weather radio
A weather radio is an important safety tool to take out on hikes and trips where you might lose cell signal.

Plan for the worst and educate yourself about what to do in case of lightning. The best approach is to try to avoid it, if possible. If you’re on the trail and see a storm approaching, descend from ridges, peaks, and elevated areas. If you get caught in a thunderstorm, seek protection in a valley or depression in the terrain until it passes.

Always avoid isolated trees or other tall objects. For more information, see the NOAA Lightening Safety website.

Understand the Terrain

A man standing on a rock looking out at a spectacular view while hiking.

Before you head out on the trail, try to do a little research to determine if the hike will be in full sun, or if you can expect some shade along the way and, if so, the average time it takes to hike between shaded locations. Get a sense of where the hardest parts of the hike will be and try to set a reasonable pace for yourself and those hiking with you.

Don’t forget, summer provides a great opportunity to explore trails at a higher elevation where it’s naturally cooler, like in the Rockies. Most importantly, no matter where you hike, stop along the way to rest, let your body cool, and enjoy the view. Remember life is more about the journey, not just the destination.

Get an Early Start

A sunrise over a mountain top
Start your hike early in the morning to avoid the highest temps. Image by Paul Gilmore from Unsplash

While you might be tempted to sleep in on your summer vacation, hiking earlier in the day reduces your chances of heat exhaustion. In mountainous areas, thunderstorms typically develop in the early afternoon, so hiking early in the day and coming down the mountain by noon is a good idea.

However, there is one thing you should keep in mind if you decide to start early. If the trail is grassy, it will likely be wet with morning dew. Since few things are more uncomfortable than having wet feet during a hike, you might want to pack an extra pair of dry socks or wear water-resistant hiking shoes. Mens hiking shoes and women’s hiking shoes come in all different styles and colors. If you’re wondering what shoe to take on your summer hike, a Camping World associate can help you find the gear that will best fit your terrain.

A waterproof hiking boot
Don’t hike with soggy shoes and socks. A waterproof boot will help you weather any conditions.

Dress for the Weather

While tank tops and flip flops are summer favorites, they aren’t a good choice for the trails. Even in the warmest weather, covering bare skin is the best tip to avoid sunburn, bug bites, and the dreaded poison ivy. A fully stocked first-aid kit should have the right items to treat these minor ailments, but with preparation you shouldn’t need it.

Polarized sunglasses
Polarized sunglasses help with sun glare.

You won’t regret investing in moisture-wicking long sleeve shirts and pants to protect yourself from the elements. Please don’t forget a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for any skin left exposed.

Bring (and Drink) Plenty of Water

family hiking camping in desert summer
Kids can get dehydrated more easily than adults. When traveling as a family, you can never have too much water.

Fact: hiking in hot weather depletes your body of liquids. To make matters worse, the more dehydrated you become, the less efficient your body is at cooling itself down. Be aware that children generate more heat than adults, but they also sweat less, which increases their chance of dehydration. For traveling families, it’s important to have plenty of water on hand.

Start your hike well hydrated and continue to replace fluids throughout the trail. Use a Camelbak hydration pack, which carries water comfortably on your back. Drink before feeling thirsty. Unfortunately, by the time you feel thirsty, you are already behind in fluid replacement. As a general rule, drink a cup every half hour. Depending on the length and intensity of your hike, you may want to bring along a sports drink. Sports drinks are specially formulated to help replace fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat. Plus, they taste good too.

Camelbak Hydration pack

Learn to Recognize Heat Exhaustion

One of the biggest dangers while hiking in the summer is heat exhaustion. By following all the tips up to this point, you’ve prepared yourself with prevention tactics. However, it is still important to know the early signs of heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and even hyponatremia, so you can protect yourself and any others who may be hiking with you.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, heat exhaustion is identifiable by heavy sweating, clammy skin, rapid pulse, nausea, muscle cramps, headache, and fainting. If these concerns are present, stop hiking immediately. Focus on moving to shade, cooling down with wet cloths, and slowly sipping water.

With these tips addressed, you can focus more on the fun, excitement, and views of an epic summer hike.

We hope these tips will help you have a fun & safe hiking adventure this summer!

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